How to Install a Wood Stove

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How to Install a Wood Stove The cold winter is quickly approaching. I was talking to Glen Martin a survival author and owner of the Prepper Broadcasting Network. On Wednesday he was watching the first snow fall in his area. We humans have been fighting off the cold forever. Our struggles through the ice age, …

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The Most Efficient Wood Stoves For Off-Grid Heat

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The Most Efficient Wood Stoves For Off-Grid Heat

Photo by Stephen McKay. Creative Commons license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Heating with wood is a great option for many households – and a must for most off-gridders and homesteaders. Wood stoves are easy to use and the feedstock is renewable and easy to obtain. If you live in a heavily wooded area, are living without electricity, or simply want to reduce your fuel bill, wood stoves often make a good deal of sense.

In this article, we are going to explore the different types of wood stoves, their features, and differing levels of efficiency. Not all wood stoves are created equal, and they can range from something as simple as a 50-gallon steel drum to something more complicated, like a circulating stove with a catalytic converter.

Open Fireplace

We’ll begin with one of the most iconic kinds of wood-burning heaters: the open fireplace. Open fireplaces are popular because they’re romantic and make a nice visual addition to a room. Who hasn’t imagined themselves relaxing at the hunting lounge with a big, stone fireplace in the center of the living room? The problem with open fireplaces is that they are extremely inefficient.

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Why? Because they actually suck all the heat out of a room, sending it outside via the chimney. Because of this, you will rarely find fireplaces in homes where wood is the main source of heat. Not only are they hugely inefficient, but fireplaces are also extremely smoky. This is an annoyance, but it’s an indicator that you are not getting a very clean, and therefore efficient, burn of the wood itself. Modern fireplaces typically only covert 10 percent to 20 percent of wood burned to heat.

Radiant Heat Stove

Another common wood stove is a radiant heat-type wood stove. These wood stoves heat the area around them by radiating the heat from an enclosed chamber. Common types of radiant heat wood stoves include potbelly stoves and rocket mass heaters. Because the combustion chamber is either enclosed or insulated, radiant heat wood stoves will be much more efficient than an open burning fireplace, and the heat will be radiated into the room for a much longer time after the fire has gone out.

The Most Efficient Wood Stoves For Off-Grid Heat

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There are varying levels of efficiencies within radiant heat wood stoves, with perhaps the most efficient being a rocket mass heater. Rocket mass heaters use an insulated burn chamber, are designed for more draft, and have heat-exchange passages that capture exhaust gases before they escape through the chimney, resulting in a cleaner burn that can be up to eight times more efficient than traditional radiant heat wood stoves. The heat created from a rocket mass heater is then radiated into the room via a thermal mass (concrete, adobe, dirt, etc.) that surrounds the heating components.

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Radiant heat wood stoves can be inexpensively built out of something as simple as a 55-gallon steel drum with a chimney attached. Although this can be a great option if you have the materials lying around or can procure them cheaply, keep in the mind that the life of these wood stoves will be much less than something built out of sturdier material like firebrick, concrete or cast iron.

Circulating Heat Stove

The more modern kind of wood stoves that you can purchase at many heating supply stores are circulating stoves that use air to heat the living space. Circulating stoves are double walled with an inner combustion chamber. There is an air space between the two walls where air is passed over the inner wall near the combustion chamber, and then pushed out into the room, conveying heat. These types of stoves can achieve 70 percent to 80 percent efficiencies and are popular for families with children, since the outer wall of the stove does not get nearly as hot as with radiant-type stoves.

As air pollution became more and more of a concern, many circulating wood stoves started to integrate catalytic converters and secondary air combustion chambers to reduce emissions and increase efficiency. Catalytic converters are simply platinum grids that are placed in the firebox of the stoves, capturing the exhaust and combusting it for a cleaner burn. Modern circulating stoves that do not have catalytic converters have a damper that directs smoke from the stove into a secondary chamber, where hot air is added and reignites any unburned fuel.

Non-catalytic circulating stoves are often cheaper than catalytic stoves and easier to maintain. A wood stove with a catalytic converter is more efficient than one without, but the catalytic converter will need to be replaced every five years and may require yearly maintenance.

Wood stoves are a great way to reduce you heating bill, reduce your reliance on the electric grid and make use of a renewable natural resource. When choosing one, take into consideration your budget, the size of space you want to heat and your desired efficiency for a warm, happy home.

How do you heat your home? What advice would you add for a new buyer or homeowner? Share your tips in the section below:

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The 12 Very Best Trees To Cut For Off-Grid Wood Heat

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The 12 Very Best Trees To Cut For Off-Grid Wood Heat

Nothing beats the enveloping warmth from off-the-grid wood heat through the winter, and autumn is a perfect time for collecting firewood for your wood stove or fireplace. Use the following tips and you’ll fill your woodshed with the right wood from the right trees.

Your primary concern must be safety when looking for trees. Pro lumberjacks have the highest rate of work-related deaths of any other U.S. occupation. It doesn’t end there. A total of 25 amateurs, who were cutting down trees, died in 2012. When adding safety to the decision of selecting firewood trees, consider the following:

  • Leaning vs. straight – Leave the leaning trees behind. Seek trees that grow straight and proud. The leaning tree category includes tree trunks angling one direction and then twisting off at a different angle. Crooked trees can fall in unpredictable ways.
  • Long trunk vs. wide branches – When a choice exists, select trees with long trunks and branches on top, rather than expansively branched full trees, because with fewer branches, there’s a chance for fewer accidents while limbing the trees for firewood.
  • Beware of lodging dangers – Timber growing in a tightly packed forest contains those nice, long-trunked trees. Felling a tree in these woods leads to lodging the treetop into neighboring trees. Trying to get a lodged tree to drop to the ground is hazardous. Leave thick-growth forests alone.
  • Match tree size to chainsaw – Don’t attack a three-foot thick oak tree with a chainsaw containing a 12-inch bar. Forestry experts recommend chainsaw bars that are two inches longer than the diameter of the tree, which reduces safety issues with chainsaws kicking back into an operator’s head or face.

Certain tree types favor hot-burning firewood. When a choice exists, look for hardwood, selecting trees with higher density. Dense, or heavy wood once dried, contains higher heat per volume when burned. That means your firewood will burn hotter and longer.

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Desirable tree types in descending order, based on dry density measured in pounds per cord of firewood and rated as “excellent” for heat, are:

  1. Osage orange 4728
  2. White oak 4200
  3. Black locust 4016
  4. Ironwood 4016
  5. Shagbark hickory 3952
  6. Apple 3888
  7. Bitternut hickory 3832
  8. Honey locust 3832
  9. Burr oak 3768
  10. Mulberry 3712
  11. Maple 3680
  12. Red oak 3528
The 12 Very Best Trees To Cut For Off-Grid Wood Heat

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All wood types burn, so when no other choice exists, go ahead and take firewood from softwood trees. Just understand that in most cases, you’ll be burning more softwood to get the same heat value you’ll receive from most hardwood trees.

The above list of the dense firewood varieties is based on dry wood. Green, or wet wood, greatly hinders the heat production value of your firewood. If you cut green trees for firewood, give your new firewood at least two years of drying time in order to gain the full effect of dry wood heat value. Besides providing less heat, when you burn green wood, you fill the flue and chimney full of tar and creosote, which has the potential of turning into chimney fires if not removed.

Another option to obtaining dry firewood is to get your wood from trees that are already dead, since they already enjoyed some drying time, thereby cutting down on your overall firewood drying time. Just realize the following aspects about cutting down dead trees for firewood:

  • Dead trees have wet areas – Just because a dead tree has dry wood doesn’t mean it’s thoroughly dry. The capillary action of the tree’s roots pulls water from the ground, even after the tree is dead. That means the bottom trunk of a dead tree is still wet. It will require drying time, but you might be able to get away with six months, instead of two years to dry your firewood.
  • Dry wood at top – Pull the driest wood from the top third to half of a dead tree. Often this wood is dry enough to burn immediately.
  • Beware of widow-maker branches – Look for branches broken loose and ready to fall from dead trees. When you see dead trees with broken branches hanging overhead, select a different tree.

Finally, enjoy your firewood gathering efforts. There’s nothing better than hoisting around hefty chunks of oak firewood for getting great exercise. Plus, you breathe clean air while looking forward to excellent off-the-grid wood heat this winter.

Sources: University of Nebraska, Utah State University.

Which is your favorite tree for winter heat? Share your advice in the section below:

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Coal: An Underrated Fuel Source that Preppers Should Consider

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coal wikimediaIf you’re living in a rural area and you happen to have a wood stove, you’re probably living the dream. Not only are you experiencing the joys of living so close to nature, and the peace of living so far away from the city, but you’re also sleeping easy knowing that if the grid ever goes down, you can always cut down a few trees for the winter.

But wood isn’t the only thing you can put in your wood stove. These days most people have forgotten that there is another source of fuel that is far more attractive: the much maligned rock known as coal.

Though coal is still widely used as a source of fuel for power plants, its house-warming applications have fallen out of favor over the past few decades, likely due to environmental concerns. Even if you don’t believe all the arguments about Co2 and global warming, the smoke and ash from a coal fire can contain radioactive materials, arsenic, mercury, and other heavy metals. Coal is not something you want to burn in your house every day.

It should however, still of be of interest to preppers for occasional or emergency use. For starters, it has a very high energy density. It doesn’t have quite as many BTUs per pound as gasoline or propane, but it has at least twice as much energy density as wood. And unlike those aforementioned fuels, it doesn’t really require any special storage methods, and it’s not going to go bad. You can just leave it around somewhere on your property. Though it can catch fire, it’s not that easy to get it burning on accident. All in all it’s a very low maintenance fuel, but most importantly, it’s really cheap depending on where you live.

The location of your property is very important to keep in mind. Out of the ground, coal is nearly dirt cheap. The cheap stuff costs about $40 per short ton, or 2 cents per pound. But the cost of shipping can quickly dwarf the cost of the coal itself. If you live anywhere in the eastern half of the United States, then you don’t have much to worry about. The Western United States on the other hand has very few coal mines, so it’s probably going to cost significantly more for you there. You probably won’t be able to get a hold of any significant amount of coal in the West without incurring heavy costs.

Not only that, but you may not want most of the coal that is produced. The bulk of the coal that is produced around the world is known as bituminous coal. This is the stuff that contains a lot of those nasty substances I mentioned before, and it does not burn cleanly. You can still use it, but it would be wise to do so sparingly and mainly for emergencies.

If you can get a hold of it affordably, anthracite coal is what you want. In the United States it is only produced in Pennsylvania, and is a far superior coal compared to bituminous. That’s because it has a higher energy density, and burns with very little smoke.

Whatever you use, make sure that your stove is capable of handling coal. You don’t want to use some rinky-dink burner made of thin steel. Unless a stove is advertised for its ability to burn coal, you probably don’t want to trust anything other than cast iron. Otherwise you can use a fireplace, so long as you purchase and install a wood/coal-burning insert.

All in all, coal is a great fuel source for preppers living in rural areas. It’s something that can be cheaply and easily stockpiled on your property, and left on its own for years until an emergency occurs. You don’t have to worry about it rotting or going bad like wood or gasoline, and it doesn’t have the same storage dangers as propane or natural gas. You can just set it by your house and forget it till you need it. It will burn for a lot longer than wood too, sometimes for up to 24 hours, so you won’t have to stay up all night feeding that fire. If you want to have your home heating needs taken care of when the grid goes down, a big pile of coal is your best friend.

Joshua Krause was born and raised in the Bay Area. He is a writer and researcher focused on principles of self-sufficiency and liberty at Ready Nutrition. You can follow Joshua’s work at our Facebook page or on his personal Twitter.

Joshua’s website is Strange Danger

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

5 Easy Ways To Make Your Fire Burn Longer (And More Efficiently)

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5 Easy Ways To Make Your Fire Burn Longer (And More Efficiently)

Image source: kumastoves

How do you keep your house warm during winter? If you are like me and millions of other Americans, you use wood. Figures in a recent Census showed that the number of homes heating with wood grew 34 percent between 2000 and 2010 – a faster pace than any other heating fuel.

Heating with wood is certainly not a novel idea, as we have been using it for the majority of human history. But we always can improve how we do it.

If you are considering wood heat or would like to know how you can make your wood heat longer and as efficient as possible, here are a few tips.

Tip One: Know How to Really Build a Fire: While it may seem elementary — toss in some logs, some paper and a match – burning an efficient fire isn’t so simple. The key to a successful fire is to start small and add on. Don’t be in a rush to put too many logs on the fire at one time. Gradually adding logs will help build up a strong and steady heat. Don’t go overboard and build a huge fire at the beginning; it is actually much less efficient, contrary to how it may seem. Always use softwood kindling to start a fire; it makes for easy starting.

Of course, there are some things that should never be burned, including:

  • Plastics
  • Colored magazines
  • Painted wood
  • Foil
  • Household garbage
  • Fabric made out of synthetic materials

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fireplace-933565_640Tip Two: Know Your Wood: You have probably wondered which type of wood provides the most heat. Oak is one of the best woods with which to heat. One cord of oak will burn about 29 million BTUs. Oak is hard and very dense and will burn for a long time compared to other types of wood. A cord of pine will provide about 60 percent of the heat as oak; white cedar will provide 50 percent the amount of heat as oak. But what if you can’t get oak? The top five head-producing woods are:

  • Oak
  • Beech
  • Apple
  • Mulberry
  • Maple

Tip Three: Use Well-Seasoned Wood: When wood is seasoned well, it offers a great deal more heat than that which is green. In fact, seasoned wood offers four times as much heat value as uncured wood. Cut, split and stack wood in early spring and let it sit out in the sun and wind until it is seasoned. It generally takes six months to a year to season wood, depending on the climate and the type of wood you are cutting.

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Tip Four: Keep Everything Clean: If you heat with a wood fireplace insert, be sure that your chimney is inspected and cleaned yearly. Don’t let ash pile up in your stove or fireplace; this gets in the way of its effectiveness. Keep in mind that just one-tenth of an inch of soot inside the fireplace can hamper the heat-transfer efficiency by about 50 percent. The best is to clean it after each use.

Tip Five: Make Sure Your Fire Has Enough Air: Make sure that your fire is always getting enough air. This will ensure that it burns hot and clean. Check the air intake on your heater to be sure that there are no blockages, such as dust or spider webs. If you have a through-floor intake, make sure that the screen is clean and not obstructed. Keeping your air intake open will ensure that your fire burns as efficiently as possible.

Finally, keep your wood cut, split and stacked in a place that is sheltered from the weather. But don’t cover the sides, as this helps to keep air circulating. Be sure to cover your wood with a tarp during a snowstorm. Stack your wood on pallets to keep it off of the ground. Finally, always keep a small supply of wood indoors; this will ensure that you have what you need to get your fire started.

Follow these simple five steps to burning wood efficiently and you will be warm and cozy all winter long!

What advice would you add on keeping wood burning efficiently? Share your tips in the section below:  

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What does your wood stove say?

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If your wood burning stove could talk, what would it say to you? Is it happy with the way you load it? Is it happy with the amount and type of wood you use?

Most off gridders are using wood to heat our homes, open fireplaces are pretty to look at, but aren’t efficient. We prefer to use a wood burning stove, a metal box that contains the wood and fire, they use much less wood and give off much more heat.

I found this video with lots of tips and tricks to help you use your wood stove more efficiently, the biggest tip I got from this video is to learn your wood stove, they each have their own personality and burn differently, some like being filled, others prefer less wood more often, experiment and learn what your stove likes best and what works best.

https://youtu.be/su6znyIVxBA

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The Ancient Off-Grid Heater That’s Far Better Than A Wood Stove

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The Ancient Off-Grid Heater That's Far Better Than A Wood Stove

It’s the most reliable, safe and efficient way to produce heat with wood. So why do so few homes nowadays have them?

Masonry stoves have been used for centuries — across Scandinavia, France, Germany and Poland. But they were seldom found in Britain and it’s the early British influence on North America that may account for their relative scarcity in the US.

On a fundamental level, a masonry stove is a massive assembly of bricks that is designed to hold and radiate heat produced by a wood fire. When properly designed and built, a masonry stove can continue to radiate heat for up to 20 hours in a well-insulated home after the intense burning of a two-hour fire. On average, though, the two-hour fire will heat a home in winter for eight to 12 hours.

The brickwork in the chimney is designed to circulate the smoke through a system of channels that extract as much heat as possible before the smoke exits the flue. Because an intense fire is used to heat up the masonry, there is little creosote buildup and it produces a very clean fire.

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Well-known American author Mark Twain was so impressed with the masonry stove during a trip to Europe that he wrote about it, expressing confusion about why America hadn’t imported the heating style:

“All day long and until past midnight all parts of the room will be delightfully warm and comfortable … Its surface is not hot: you can put your hand on it anywhere and not get burnt. Consider these things. One firing is enough for the day: the cost is next to nothing: the heat produced is the same all day, instead of too hot and too cold by turns … America could adopt this stove, but does America do it? No, she sticks placidly to her own fearful and wonderful inventions in the stove line. The American wood stove, of whatever breed, is a terror. It requires more attention that a baby. It has to be fed every little while, it has to be watched all the time: and for all reward you are roasted half your time and frozen the other half … and when your wood bill comes in you think you have been supporting a volcano. It is certainly strange that useful customs and devices do not spread from country to country with more facility and promptness than they do.”

Ideally, a masonry stove is built during the initial construction of a home, but it’s possible to retrofit one into some existing homes. What’s critical, though, is that there is sufficient support under the stove because one can weigh anywhere from one to three tons. Another architectural detail is that most masonry stores are built and placed in the center of a home’s living space. This allows for more efficient radiation of heat to all parts of the home.

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A side benefit to a masonry stove is the inclusion of an oven in the brick work. This is another great off-the-grid solution and it works extremely well for baking everything from bread and pizzas to turkeys.

As Twain pointed out, the masonry does not get terribly hot on the surface. Unlike a cast iron stove that can easily burn you if touched, the brick and stone in a masonry stove radiates heat steadily at a lower temperature. It can still be hot to the touch, but not as hot as a traditional wood-burning stove.

Popular materials used in construction include fire-brick, soapstone and other types of brick that hold and retain heat well. There are free-standing masonry stoves that you can buy, but they really should be installed by a professional and are sometimes assembled in pieces due to their weight. There also are building codes and necessary safety features that need to be followed because of the high heat generated in the firebox.

Because the masonry stove puts off a consistent heat for hours without great fuss, it is a great asset if you are living without electricity and gas.

Do you have experience with a masonry stove? What would you add to the story? Share your advice in the section below:

Related:

4 Off-Grid Alternatives To (Traditional) Wood-Burning Stoves

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Building your own systems!

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Building your own systems. Why buy?

Makers on Acres 160x160On this episode of the Tech, Build and Grow show, Brett is discusses new build ideas for our preps, homesteads and more. Moving beyond the greenhouse with our automation and build ideas where can we better our lives and make them more efficient?

Building fireBeing now in the heart of the cold weather season, we should be focusing our attention on backup heat options for our homes, greenhouses and livestock facilities. The question that many may have is where do I start?

12-26-2015 chipsCreating heat options and systems can be fun and challenging at the same time, and now is time to get the creative engineering juices flowing. We can take a simple wood stove idea and put it on steroids to run all on its own, send us updates and heat more efficiently.

12-26-15 Straight-tube_heat_exchanger_1-passWe will discuss how to transform our thinking from “What do I buy?” mentality, to “What do I build?” mentality. Getting to the point where you start designing and building your own systems is a huge step forward.

By building and creating all your new systems you start to learn the ins and outs of all the components, science and technology involved. Learning all the aspects of each build creates more knowledge for the next build and creates an awareness in the mind for troubleshooting and problem solving in the systems. Transforming in to a “Maker” is a one way street and once you get the building bug, it’s usually with you forever!
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How To Build a Deluxe Barrel Stove

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How To Build a Deluxe Barrel Stove Prepping is the name and prepping is the game! Having a reliable heating system makes winter a more enjoyable, less stressful season. Most homes have central heating with oil, gas, or electricity for fuel and these are reasonably dependable even if evermore expensive to use. Many folks use wood-stoves for …

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